In his column, Howley says he took part in the demonstration Saturday at the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum reportedly directed at an exhibit about the unmanned drone aircraft used by the U.S. and others for spying and, increasingly, targeted killings in far-flung hotspots.
As between 100 and 200 anti-war demonstrators arrived at the steps of the museum — some of them affiliated with a group organizing the “Occupy DC” spinoff of the Wall Street protests — a few intrepid protesters made a rush for the door despite apparent warnings from security guards. One of them was Howley, who recounts that “as far as I could tell I was the only one who got inside the museum.”
A spokesperson for the Smithsonian said at least one person was pepper sprayed by a guard. According to Howley, “I got hit.” The conservative writer then went on to explain what exactly he was doing leading the charge past museum guards into the building itself:
[A]s far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator — and I wasn’t giving up before I had my story. Under a cloud of pepper spray I forced myself into the doors and sprinted blindly across the floor of the Air and Space Museum…
The liberal blog Fire Dog Lake, which labeled Howley an “agent provocateur,” used a detail of a photo shot of the protesters just inside the entrance, and lined it up with Howley’s Facebook profile photo:
True to his admitted purpose, Howley mocked the 99 Percent Movement for a disorganized meeting at Freedom Plaza, the base camp for D.C.’s “Occupy Wall Street” franchise, derided the bulk of protesters for not disobeying the museum guards (“all of a sudden liberal shoes started marching less forcefully”), and said he was “proud” to get pepper sprayed:
I deserved to get a face full of high-grade pepper, and the guards who sprayed me acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protesters.
The evidence doesn’t seem to show that Howley incited protesters to do anything they weren’t already primed to do, but his stated intention to “undermine” the 99 Percent Movement and associated demonstrations — and his position leading the charge of protesters at the museum entrance — indicate a little more activism than simply an attempt to get a close look at protests, as Howley says, “for journalistic purposes.”